Summer destinations in Kashmir

Kashmir is not a place that you visit once and cross off from your list. Unlike other places, one doesn’t need a season or a particular time of the year to visit this heaven of a place. Beautiful all throughout the year, Kashmir is most known for its kaleidoscopically colorful summer season. Summer, in Kashmir starts at around the onset of May and laststill 15th of July, which marks the onset of ‘wahraat’ that is the rainy season in the valley. This beautiful ‘Retkol’ (summer) as it is called in Kashmiri language breaths in an altogether different life, marked by blossoms in bloom, gushing rivers into magnanimous lakes, vibrant markets, glorious mornings serene evenings, clear blue skies, starry nights , beauty galore. Kashmir, hence, seesa surge in the number of tourists and visitors from all over the globe in this season. There are travellers, trekkers, sports persons, and people from cinema,photographers, poets and many more. And trust me when I say, the bewitchingly beautiful valley has something to offer to all of them, in ways they want.There is something to do for everyone in this land of mountains, lakes and ‘margs’. An adventure trip with your friends, an individual trip for finding serenity, a fun family holiday, or a romantic vacation with the one you love, the best time to visit Kashmir is when the Sun is on your side.

Kashmir offers a lot to visitors during summertime ranging from something as adventurous as rock-climbing and Jet-skiing to something as calm as taking a Shikara ride in the beautiful and famous Dal Lake. A few places that you should visit on your summer trip to Kashmir are:

Srinagar City: Srinagar city is a combination of heritage, architectural grandeur from the 15th century and beauty of nature all painted on the same canvas. One should consider visiting the following places while in Srinagar.                               

Dal Lake:  This beautiful fresh water lake is located 2 km off the city center at Lalchowk in Dalgate. The greatest attraction of the lake are the wooden Shikara’s (boats) made by deft Kashmiri wood-masons, and are seen nowhere else in the world. One must never miss out the long three hour Shikara ride from Nehru Park to the beautiful Hazratbal Shrine through the Floating market and the multi-colored lotus water-gardens.Spending a night in the house-boats in the lake is also a defining experience.One might also consider the delicious barbeque at Makai Park situated on the famous Fore-shore roadalong the banks of the lake. The Tulip, Botanical and Cheshma-Shahi Gardens along with the monumental Pari-mahal on the same road are also soothing and enchanting to the eye. The old Mughal Gardens at Nishat, Shalimar and Harwanare one of the few signs of historical heritage in Kashmir. Don’t forget to try the ‘Paneer ke Pakodey’ with a hot cup of tea at the time of sunset outside the Nishat garden.The adventure lovers can enjoy the Jet-skiing facilities at theJet-ski dock in the Dal-lake and even cross over to the famous floating garden,Chaar-chinari. For sports lovers, a walk through the huge international Royal Spring Golf Courseshould be a refreshing experience.                          

 Lalchowk: Lalchowk is the heart of the Srinagar city, the main center of commerce and one of the oldest markets in the city. If you’re an antique collector or a crafts lover, the Old market on the bund by The JehlumRiveris a place you should definitely visit. Many stores have a large collection of collectibles and interior decorations made through local Kashmiri crafts like Paper-Mache. As for those who want to enjoy the delicacies of Kashmiri Wazwan, Food Street is a good and inexpensive option.

 The Old City – Downtown:This is the oldest part of the Srinagar city and houses historical monuments and famous shrines  like the Jamia Masjid, Aali-Majid, Dastageer Sahib, Makhdoom Sahib and Chatti-padshahi.The place is also famous for old markets like Mahraj-Ganj and itspoetic architecture.

Go a little off the city:Only a little over 10-15 kms from the city center is the famous Dachigam National Park. This is famous for species like the Hangul (a Himalayan antelope), the Himalayan snow leopard and the Himalayan Langur along with a variety of other species. The Fish-farm within the park is also a wonderful site to see. A walk through the park is both suspenseful and adventurous with a calm silence and different sounds of nature in the background. Another 15 kms from Dachigam, one reaches Dara.This place is known for its cascades and waterfalls, and mostly for its beautiful water-spring at Padshah-Pal. Any folks interested in para-gliding can go to a place called Fakeer-Gujri at Dara and have a fun experience trying out this adventure sport.

2. Brane Nishat: Braneis located at a distance of 7-8 kms from the Srinagar city center at Lalchowk on a small diversion from the famous foreshore road. Just 7 kms from the hustle bustle of city life, one does not expect so much serenity and calmness, but you should be ready to be surprised with a dose of that with a dash of divinity as well.Driving up towards the right of Brane market , one enters into a completely different territory that seems nothing like a city. A beautiful road covered with lush green trees and old stone walls is a site to cherish. Going a little further one encounters many apple and cherry orchards emanating the sweetest fragrance ever known.  This is one of the rarest points to get a perfect aerial view of the whole Srinagar city. This also offers a parallel view of the Vivanta resorts one might think of stopping by or spending a peaceful night at. Treading further up, one reaches the famous Brane shrine. I have to admit divinity redefines itself here. Amidst trees and blossoming buds of fruit trees, God isn’t far away! You haven’t seen Kashmir if you haven’t witnessed the sunset at from this point.

3. Tsynsar Lake: Tsynsar lake is located in Pahalgam. This destination is a trekker's delight and for those who are consumed by the love of  high altitude fresh water alpine lakes. The starting ppoint of the trek is at Aaru that’s about 7 kms from Pahalgam. It isa 6 to 8 hour trek from there to the beautiful virgin lake. The trek is mildly difficult with an initial straight path, a steep ascent and a gradual descent in the end. It is surrounded by snow clad peaks on three sides and a beautiful camping site on the fourth. Also, there is an adventurous wooden bridge on the Lidder that will give you chills while crossing on the way to the lake. Watch the sun set over the lake accompanied by changing tones of the mountainous soil and the mesmerizing reflections cast in the lake and you will be bound by the spell nature casts on you.

 4. Gangabal: For those interested in extreme trekking and camping, Gangabal is the place to be. The base of the trek is  located about 45 km from the main city at a place called Naara-nag.Naara-nag is famous for its ancient architecture and hot-springs. The Gangabal trek is about 20 km’s long and leads to the serene and extremely beautiful Ganagabal and Nund-khul twin lakes.Fishing for the trout and rafting in the lake are just great and unbelievably addictive.  The Gangabal area is known for its high-altitude fresh-water alpine lakes. Apart from these two lakes,there are a bunch of other small lakes also in the same area. The Gangabal trekis also the starting point for the famous seven-lake trek which includes Gangabal,Gadsar, Satsar, Kishensar, Vishensar,Tarsar and Marsar Lakes.This giant trek can be completed in about 12-15 days if you’re up for this adventurous challenge. During the Gangabal trek, don’t miss out on the experience of living in small tribal earthen houses called ‘Dokkaas’ and the hot noon-chai. If you’re not interested in trekking up the hill, horses and ponies are easily available at the base make your trip much more comfy minus the adventure.

5. Bungus Valley: Bungus Valley is situated at a distance of 115 kms from Srinagar or more precisely at a distance of 14 kms from Nowgam village in Handwara. Out of this 14 km stretch, 7 kms have to be traverse on foot. Bungus is a combination of vastmeadows, coniferous forests, serpentine brooks, a beautiful deserted stone shrine and special residential kothas called ‘bahaqs’. Golden meadows and foamy white streams present a contrast nor seen anywhere else. This place has an unexplored serenity that speaks directly to one’s heart. If you are looking for mother nature’s unexplored secrets , there is nothing more mystifying than Bungus.

6.  Pir kiGali: Peer ki gali, also known as the heart of the Mughal road is situated at a distance of about 1000 kms from Srinagar. The name Peer ki gali comes from the fact that a saint, Sheikh Ahmad Karim lived and meditated here at the time of Mughal ruler Aurangzeb. The saint was known to be capable of performing miracles like casing hail and storms, hence the name. The place falls among snow clad mountains peaks and huge clouds of mist giving it a heavenly feel.The place is always seen dotted with grazing herds of sheep in the grassy meadows. Visit this divine place for a day away from the noisy city life and see your spirits soar. Also, along the same route, there are many places like Ali Abad Sarai , the fort constructed by Mughal emperor Shah Jahan , the ancient village of Poshna and the stone of Sheikh Alamdaar Noorani. This isn’t just a place but nature’s blessing.

 As WilliamBlake rightly said, "Great things are done when men and mountains meet; this is not done by jostling in the street."